|Musical Style: Melodic Power Metal||Produced By: Jacob Hansen & Pyramaze|
|Record Label: Nightmare||Country Of Origin: Denmark & USA|
|Year Released: 2004||Artist Website: Pyramaze|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 50:48|
Pyramaze is the brainchild of Danish guitarist and songwriter Michael Kammeyer. Kammeyer got his start with the power metal band Damion but departed the group in order to pursue his dream of composing an album of all original material. After spending roughly half a year in intense songwriting, Kammeyer had come up with enough material by the summer of 2002 to record a full length album and, as a result, began the search for the right musicians to complete the project. He did not have to look much further than his own back yard in that fellow Danes, bassist Niels Kvist (Aurora) and drummer Morten Gade (Aurora, Wuthering Heights), were the first to come aboard. Keyboardist Jonah Weingarten was recruited from the USA via the internet.
With Pyramaze's line up beginning to take shape, Weingarten flew to Denmark in January of 2003 and the band proceeded to spend the next twelve days recording the albums instrumental tracks. The initial plan was to have Kammeyer handle all lead vocal duties, but the band ran out of studio time before they could be recorded. Prior to re-booking more time in the studio, however, the bands producer, Jacob Hansen, sent several MP3's to the Danish metal agency Intromental Management. Falling in love with Pyramaze's music, Intromental contacted the band and the two parties subsequently joined forces.
When the issue of completing the albums vocal tracks came up, Intromental suggested bringing in a professional vocalist who could bring the bands material to the next level. Out of the promo CDs of various vocalists that Intromental sent to the band, the one voice standing out in the crowd was that of Lance King (Avian, Balance Of Power, Defyance). King, who was available as a result of having recently left Balance Of Power, liked the bands material so much he agreed to furnish the albums lead vocal duties, completing them in his own studio in Minneapolis over the next several months. Initially hired as a session musician, King later accepted the gig to become the bands full time vocalist. Melancholy Beast, Pyramaze's full length debut, was released during the spring of 2004 on NTS Records in Europe, Toshiba-EMI in Japan and Nightmare Records in the USA.
Melancholy Beast can best be described as double bass driven melodic power metal drawing its influences from Iced Earth, Kamelot, Nightwish, Sonata Arctica, Iron Maiden and Magnitude 9. King delivers one of the finest and most versatile performance of his career, adopting a more aggressive vocal style which helps lend to the albums overall heaviness. Speaking of heaviness, Kammeyer contributes a monster rhythm guitar sound on tracks such as "Mighty Abyss", "Melancholy Beast" and "Sleepy Hollow". And he proves no slouch on lead guitar either, his fluid soloing abilities standing out best on "Forsaken Kingdom" and "Legend". The mega-tight rhythm section of Kvist and Gade puts in place a rock solid foundation for the bands sound. Weingarten adds just the right amount of touch and ambience on keyboards without coming across heavy handed.
Jacob Hansen performed an immaculate job producing an album showcasing crystal clear sonics allowing for a full and heavy low end to underscore a crunchy rhythm guitar and clean mix of lead guitar and keyboards.
The albums lyrics are positive and very well thought out in addressing topics ranging from the legend of Ichabod Crane ("Sleepy Hollow"), the journey that life puts us through (“The Journey”), relationships (“Until We Fade Away”), nature (“Mighty Abyss”) and epic fantasy (“Legend” and “Forsaken Kingdom”).
"Sleepy Hollow" opens the album in a sinister manner to narration underscored by a quietly played guitar line and piano before King steps forward and interjects a resounding "No!". After the song builds to a furious crescendo, a double bass driven riff backed by a harpsichord takes it to an extensive chorus with a catchy refuse to go away hook. A very well done keyboard and lead guitar trade off carries "Sleepy Hollow" over its last minute.
Introduced to several seconds of open air rhythm guitar, "Forsaken Kingdom" quickly moves through its first and second verse to a well placed mix of keyboards. Slowing at the start of the third, "Forsaken Kingdom" picks up in pace as it transitions to a double bass driven chorus giving rise to an epic feel. Kammeyer cuts loose on lead guitar throughout a minute long instrumental passage.
"Melancholy Beast" ranks among the albums heaviest tracks. Propelled through its verse portions by a crunchy guitar riff, the albums title track culminates as it reaches a powerful chorus in which a sublime atmosphere is attained. Another guitar and keyboard trade off closes out the songs final minute
Quickly kicking in at a frenetic tempo, "The Journey" slows upon attaining its first verse only to gain momentum for its pre-chorus as the rhythm guitar moves to the front of the mix. A good melodic flavored chorus is fortified by a plethora of backing vocals that come across Stryper-like in their capacity. Interplay between the lead guitar and keyboards take the song through a lengthy instrumental passage. Lyrically, I find "The Journey" to be nothing less than inspiring:
And at the journeys end
Then I will surely stand
More victorious than I've ever been
A piano helps convey the power ballad "Until We Fade Away" through its first four verses as King accentuates the haunting atmosphere with his deep sounding vocal delivery. Abruptly picking up in pace, the rhythm guitar enters the mix just before the song achieves a beautiful chorus carried in an emotionally charged manner. Kammeyer's slowly moving and almost bluesy lead guitar work drives a thirty second instrumental passage.
Several seconds of open air rhythm guitar introduces "Legend" before a driving riff underlined by a harpsichord carries its first minute. Advancing through its first and second verse in up-tempo fashion, "Legend" builds and gains impetus until it transitions to an anthemic chorus reinforced by a crunchy rhythm guitar. Tapering off to a blend of guitar and piano, the song picks up in pace for just under a minute of fast paced lead guitar work.
Carried through its first minute by a quietly played guitar line as waves wash upon the shore, "Mighty Abyss" picks up in pace to a fast paced double bass driven riff. The song tapers off to a melodic flavored mid-tempo pace for its first verse before moving on to a resounding chorus resonating a deep and heavy ambience. King slows the pace to a near crawl as he twice whispers "See - hear - you will know - you will feel". The fast paced instrumental passage that follows opens to a sweeping keyboard solo ensued by several seconds of blistering lead guitar work.
The brief (:49) but well done instrumental "The Nature Of Triumph" is highlighted by a combination of piano and keyboards.
"Power Of Imagination" immediately launches into a galloping double bass driven riff before slowing as an edgy rhythm guitar carries its verse. The galloping riff opening the song returns, however, to buttress a catchy chorus proceeding at an upbeat tempo. After slowing to a quietly played guitar line, "Power Of Imagination" launches into a rhythm guitar driven instrumental passage closing out its final minute and a half.
Consistency would be the best way to describe Melancholy Beast in that all nine of its tracks easily hold up under repeated play. While my favorite numbers are those moving in a heavier and more guitar driven direction such as "Sleepy Hollow", "Melancholy Beast" and "Mighty Abyss", I find the more melodic based "The Journey" and "Until We Fade Away" to be every bit as noteworthy. The bands first rate musicianship and an excellent production job only adds to the albums appeal.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Sleepy Hollow" (6:11), "Forsaken Kingdom" (5:27), "Melancholy Beast" (6:11), "The Journey" (5:47), "Until We Fade Away" (4:36), "Legend" (7:11), "Mighty Abyss" (8:01), "The Nature Of Triumph" (:50), "Power Of Imagination" (6:29)
Lance King – Lead Vocals
Michael Kammeyer – Guitars
Jonah Wiengarten – Keyboards
Niels Kvist – Bass
Morten Gade - Drums